Wednesday, August 26, 2020

South Dakota city mourns urban cornstalk’s brief life

Residents of Sioux Falls, South Dakota are mourning an urban cornstalk that briefly became a lighthearted beacon of hope during the coronavirus pandemic. The stalk had been growing up through a crack in the concrete at the intersection of 57th Street and Minnesota Avenue on Sioux Falls’ south side. Dubbed the 57th Street Corn, complete with its own Twitter account during its brief lifespan, the plant was a symbol of resiliency and hope as the pandemic rages on, according to Mayor Paul TenHaken. “Finding joy in the small things will continue to help us get through what has been a challenging time in our country,” the mayor said. “It was ‘amaizing’ to see the community rally around the 57th Street corn as a sign of hope over the past few days.” (The Argus Leader)


Considering it all, American net worth surges

Soaring stocks and home prices are keeping Americans’ net worth high despite the massive economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike the 2008 crisis, which saw stocks tank, unemployment soar and home prices collapse, the current public health crisis has not yet led to the same structural issues that plagued the recovery, potentially signaling an easier return to normal if the virus is brought to heel. However, COVID-19 has seemed to leave its mark on productivity and could create a drag on innovation and entrepreneurship. (Bloomberg)


Do billboards aggravate inequality?

Constant exposure to billboards can be annoying, but these ads may also deepen inequality and contribute to a public health crisis. In a recent study, urban areas shows that lower-income people are bombarded with more, and possibly more harmful, ads than those in wealthy neighborhoods. Advertising is two-to-four-times more dense in lower-income neighborhoods because space is cheaper and there’s less regulation. Critics say the glut of ads can cause mental overload and promote overspending and over-consumption. Often ads targeted at these communities hawk foods high in salt, fat and sugar. (BBC)


Remote workers head overseas

Facing a drop in tourism and capitalizing on the remote work revolution spawned by the coronavirus crisis, a number of countries are beginning to offer temporary live-and-work visas to foreigners seeking safety and adventure. Barbados was the first to offer the long-stay work visa amid the pandemic, initially luring about 1,000 applicants. Countries including Estonia and Georgia offer similar programs, while some U.S. states and cities have dabbled in trying to lure remote workers away from more expensive parts of the country. (The New York Times)


Movers swamped as home buys spike

Sales of existing homes saw a historic 24.7% spike in July after rebounding in June, according to the National Association of Realtors. The record increase is fueled, at least in part, by “urban exiles” seeking more space amid the pandemic and seizing on low mortgage rates. The news is a boon to America’s economic recovery, the housing market is actually past the recovery phase and is now in a booming stage, some analyst say. Moving companies in big cities also report being swamped, with some having had to turn away work. (Bloomberg)


Mei Xiang, a female giant panda at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington D.C., gave birth to a cub

22-year-old Mei Xiang became the oldest panda to ever give birth in the U.S., after being inseminated with frozen sperm from her partner Tian Tian. The zoo was worried Mei Xiang could have a miscarriage or reabsorb the fetus due to her older age, but these appeared not to be issues. Mei Xiang gave birth to twins in 2015. The zoo shared a video of the birth on Instagram. Mei Xiang has three cubs that live in China, under an agreement between the U.S. and China. (Smithsonian Zoo)


13 people in Lima, Peru were crushed to death after partygoers tried to flee a nightclub being raided by police for violating COVID-19 restrictions

Peru ordered the closure of nightclubs and bars in March and banned extended family gatherings on recently to fight against the COVID-19 infection. Fifteen of the 23 people detained by police who broke up the party tested positive for COVID-19. At least six others were injured, including three police officers, as around 120 people tried to escape the Thomas Restobar club in Lima’s Los Olivos district this past weekend as police arrived to break up the event, which neighbors had reported, national police and government officials said. The partygoers had become trapped between the only entrance door, which was pushed closed in the chaos, and a staircase leading to the street, police said. The 13 victims were 11 men and two women between the ages of 20 and 30. The 60 police officers who participated in the raid would also be tested for coronavirus, officials said. The club’s owners, a married couple, were detained. The Interior Ministry said in a statement the ministry blamed the deaths on the “criminal irresponsibility of an unscrupulous businessman.” (Reuters)


Asteroid headed toward Earth before November election

NASA reported Saturday that an asteroid is headed toward Earth one day before U.S. Election Day this year, though the chances of an impact are less than 1 percent. Scientists labeled the asteroid 2018VP1, and data reveals its diameter is 0.002 kilometers, or about 6.5 feet. The celestial object was first discovered at the Palomar Observatory in California in 2018. NASA data revealed there are three potential impacts, but based on 21 observations over the course of 12.968 days, it determined the chance of impact is 0.41 percent. The space rock will pass Earth on November 2nd, on the the eve of Election Day in the United States. (CNN)


Women are posing topless on Colorado mountaintops in ‘exploding’ new trend

Women in Colorado are reportedly baring it all in half-naked photos after hiking to mountaintops, in a social media fad some say has helped their confidence soar. Some say these photos can be frivolous and fun. They also often document some of the most powerful seconds of a woman’s life. Though topless photos of bare backs at soaring summits is not a new fad, the trend has been “exploding” in popularity among female hikers in the Centennial State this summer. Some participants say that the photo ops mark much more than a lighthearted moment. Another Facebook group for female hikers in Colorado is 20,000 members strong, and users often post topless mountaintop photos on the empowering page. Some share the photos with funny captions, while others more seriously discuss battles with cancer, eating disorders and bad relationships and the pride they have for persevering through. (The Gazette)


AI pilot beats human in clean sweep of virtual F-16 dogfights, human fails to register a single hit

An AI pilot defeated a human pilot in a clean sweep of virtual reality dogfights, with experts hailing the victory as a significant moment for artificial intelligence, sources reported. The artificial intelligence algorithm, developed by Heron Systems and flying under the call sign “Falco,” beat a human F-16 pilot in simulated dogfights 5-0 in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s AlphaDogfight Trials on August 20th. DARPA pitted several different AI programs against each other before letting the winner face off against the human pilot, call sign “Banger.” Banger is a recent graduate of the Air Force Weapons School’s F-16 Weapons Instructor Course, with more than 2,000 hours in the F-16. DARPA sought to demonstrate the “feasibility of developing effective, intelligent autonomous agents capable of defeating adversary aircraft in a dogfight.” An AI defeated a human in a 2016 demonstration, but the clean sweep by Falco shows that AI has been developed to another level. The main strengths of the AI are that it doesn’t suffer from G-forces, and it can make decisions much faster than a human would be able to. The AI also is able to make adjustments on a “nanosecond level” where the human “OODA loop”—observe, orient, decide and act—takes longer, giving the algorithm another advantage. (Air Force Mag)


Is your Zoom etiquette lacking?

As the pandemic keeps millions around the world at home, video conferencing is taking on a more important role in the workplace, but a few months in, barking dogs and background spouses aren’t cute anymore, etiquette experts warn. Here are some simple rules they suggest to maintain your professional credibility:

  • Don’t be late — if you’re clicking to join the meeting at the exact time your meeting starts, you’re already late.
  • No chewing — a cup of coffee or some water is OK, but don’t eat on a video call. Especially crunchy foods.
  • Be present — when you’re multitasking, it’s more obvious than you think.

(The Wall Street Journal)


CBS wants $5.5M for a Super Bowl ad

Despite the pandemic, CBS wants advertisers to pay $5.5 million for ads for next year’s Super Bowl, about the same rate they paid earlier this year. The network is also pushing advertisers to pay an additional $200,000 to appear on the online stream of the big game. CBS would let advertisers out of their commitments if the game isn’t played because of the crisis; if the game is rescheduled, advertisers would move with the game. (CNN)


Study Finds Painting Eyes On Cows’ Butts Can Save Their Lives

A new study finds a colorful way to keep cattle safe from predators and predators safe from people might actually work. Farmers in northern Botswana, country in the center of Southern Africa, let their cows roam and graze during the day, but that was leaving livestock at the mercy of attacks by lions, leopards and other carnivores. And when a farmer loses a cow, the village will often hunt down the big cat. It’s one reason lion populations have plunged in the past few decades in Africa. (Smithsonian Magazine)


Wednesday Busts In The Momentum With:

  • Cherry Popsicle Day
  • Dog Day
  • Toilet Paper Day
  • Tug-of-War Day (Last Wednesday)
  • WebMistress Day
  • Women’s Equality Day

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